The American Interest

Staying the Course

Those of us who grew up under communism remember well the ritual of the Leader’s Speech.  At a Party congress—invariably dubbed “historic” even before it began—or on the occasion of the opening of a new steel mill, the Dear Comrade would deliver a much-heralded oration.  It usually contained three main ingredients: “We” are making great overall progress, preordained by historical necessity; there are enemies who want to disrupt “us” because they are bad, envious, or corrupt; and “our” endeavor will be victorious, even if the fruits of that success will belong to a generation yet to come.

The Speech was useless as an indicator of what was really going on east of the Iron Curtain, and it bore little relation to the grim reality of Real Socialism.  Nevertheless, it was valuable to Western diplomats and homegrown apparatchiks versed in decoding hidden meanings and implied intentions.  It provided an insight into the mind-set of men who pretended, and often believed, that their words and ideas could alter reality.

On September 13, President George W. Bush delivered a speech on Iraq worthy of the Kremlin Congress Hall c. 1969.  It came after weeks of a carefully orchestrated White House campaign that sought to alter the terms of domestic debate about the war.  Mr. Bush opened with the assertion that, in Iraq, “an ally of the United States is fighting for...

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